Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and Priscilla Shirer, Evan’s daughter and a noted Bible teacher and author herself, helped guide over 700 Christians on a trip to Israel during late 2018.
Their original plan was to experience the land where Jesus lived and ministered with their family and this group. It was a ministry trip. Making a movie wasn’t even on their radar.
“We thought, ‘How can we make this last longer than just the trip for this group?’ So we decided to film it,” Evans explained. “When we decided to film it, we came back and the footage was so good that we decided, ‘Let’s see if we can create a documentary of this.’ We created the documentary and we said, ‘Okay. A lot of people have never gone to Israel and would love to go. Why don’t we let them piggy-back on this experience?’”
Evans noted, “That led to the documentary, ‘Journey with Jesus.’”
Letting others experience this journey along with Evans’ family and the Urban Alternative group wasn’t the only reason they released the film, however. They also wanted it to be a fun activity for groups to get out and see together.
‘Wholesome, beneficial and spiritually impactful’
“We’ve been in COVID and lockdown,” Evans said. “We initially planned to do another trip and to play this before the trip to encourage people to want to go. But now with COVID, it’s really a great time for people to come out and do something that is wholesome and beneficial and spiritually impactful.”
Evans continued, “We decided to release it as a Fathom Film, the 15th, 16th and 17th of November and give churches, church groups, small groups [and] families a spiritual outing they can enjoy and benefit from.”
As the world is still dealing with COVID, Evans added an additional benefit — asserting that the film would combat the atmosphere of hopelessness that COVID has brought by showing the hope that one has in Christ.
Both Evans and Shirer expressed how glad they were to be allowed to encounter this amazing land with their immediate family and wished it could have gone on longer. They didn’t know while there that it would be the last time they would take a trip like this as a family together. Evans’ wife of 50 years, Lois, died from a rare form of cancer a little over a year after they got back.
Though each had many amazing moments during the trip, Shirer’s most memorable was when they were together on the Sea of Galilee, saying it was an “extraordinary experience.” It took several boats to fit all from their group. The boats met in the middle of the water and were tied together.
“In essence we were one group, but it in different vessels,” Shirer said. “You could hear each other, each group, singing hymns or praise and worship songs. It was like a ripple effect. One boat would hear the next and would latch on and begin singing and then the next would hear. It was like doing the wave but in praise and worship to God in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. There was something about that that marked me really in a very deep way. It was something I’ll never forget — singing the worship of Jesus, praise to His name, right there in the middle of the Sea of Galilee together.”
Deeper level of confidence in God’s word
Both Evans and Shirer suggested that this time changed how they related to the Scriptures, taking them to a deeper level of confidence in God’s word.
“[It gave] context and dimension to the stories Jesus would tell, through [aspects like] positioning — where He was standing when He was addressing a certain audience — or the proximity of His travels with the disciples from one location to another,” Shirer said.
Shirer continued, “Seeing those things in real time and real space allows us to have a greater appreciation for the historical veracity of the person of Jesus Christ. Even with someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus the Messiah, what an experience like this does, it just validates the historical personhood of Jesus. For those of us who do believe, it’s cement and gives dimension to our relationship with Him.”
“Journey with Jesus” is not expected to be released on DVD and will only be shown in theaters on Nov. 15, 16 and 17. To find out where “Journey with Jesus” is playing, go to JourneywithJesusmovie.com.